RCNI Welcomes the Criminal Procedure Bill’s Introduction of Statutory Preliminary Trial Hearings

Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) welcomes today’s announcement by  Minister of State for Law Reform, Youth Justice and Immigration, James Browne TD that new legislation to overhaul the operation of criminal trials has been passed by the Oireachtas. RCNI Executive Director Cliona Saidlear welcoming the Bill said, ‘this Bill is all about survivors getting justice and getting justice in a timely manner. 

The Criminal Procedure Bill provides for statutory preliminary trial hearings in criminal trials –a first in Irish law. The provision of preliminary trial hearings is a key recommendation of the Review of Protections for Vulnerable Witnesses in the Investigation and Prosecution of Sexual Offences (The O’Malley Report) and will have a significantly positive impact on survivors of domestic, sexual and gender based violence. 

Said Caroline Counihan, Legal Director of RCNI:  

‘Today is a big day for the RCNI as we have been recommending the introduction of preliminary trial hearings since 2008.  This legislation is very welcome and we are very encouraged that the Department of Justice is taking significant steps to implement “Supporting a Victims Journey”, Minister McEntee’s plan to support victims of Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence.’ 

Ms Counihan continued: 

‘Preliminary trial hearings provide a number of benefits for survivors. They provide a place and time in advance of the trial to discuss and rule upon special measures to benefit victims at trial. When orders for special measures are granted, some of the stress and fear survivors feel about the impending trial is alleviated. Pre-trial hearings also ensure that many complex legal issues can be addressed before trial reducing the overall delay and before a case is heard and also, reducing uncertainty and resulting stress and anxiety for survivors awaiting trial. With fewer interruptions for these issues to be discussed, trials will run more smoothly and juries will find evidence easier to grasp and remember. The resulting reduction in the length of individual trials should also mean that more cases can be heard in a given period.’ 

The Bill will now be sent to the President to be signed into law. The RCNI looks forward to seeing the positive effects of this Bill once enacted and brought into force, and to working with the Department of Justice on further measures to benefit survivors of sexual violence.